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Chinese New Year

Date: The 2015 Spring Festival was on February 19, 2015 and marked the beginning of the Year of the Goat.

More Chinese Public Holidays are available to better plan your tour.

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The most important Chinese holiday is Chinese New Year, which is known in China as Spring Festival. The festival ushers in the lunar New Year and is the West's Christmas and New Year's rolled into one. From sun up to sun down, this is a time when the whole country throws itself into celebrating and eating.

Legend of Chinese New Year:

No one is quite sure exactly when or where the festival originated. Legend has it that once upon a time, there was a monster called Nian that attacked Chinese villages every spring, eating anything that came its way; people, animals, plants and the odd building. One spring, villagers hung red paper on their doors and threw bamboo on a fire when it arrived. The monster was so startled by the bright colours and loud crackling noise of the burning bamboo that it turned and fled. Today the word "nian" is the Chinese word for year.

Since that day, Chinese people hang red paper signs and lanterns outside their homes and enjoy making loud noises on New Year's Eve. Firecrackers replaced bamboo after gunpowder was invented and the main idea today is the louder and bigger, the better.

Spring Festival Acivities:

New Year Cleaning

In the days leading up to the Spring Festival, every household gets a thorough clean since sweeping on New Year's Day itself might sweep away the year's good fortune. Breaking dishes or using sharp objects is also seen as potentially unlucky.

Family Reunion Dinner

On New Year's Eve, a grand family reunion dinner is held in every home. All family members are expected to return home for the reunion. Foods in the typical menu are chosen for their auspicious meanings, such as fish for richness and glutinous rice cakes (Nian Gao) for better life. Usually the fish is intentionally not finished and the remaining is stored overnight. It comes from a Chinese pun "Nian Nian You Yu", where the pronounciation of fish (Yu) is the same as leftover/surplus, thus giving a message of "having profit every year".

The Character of Fu

The character of Fu, literally meaning luck, auspiciousness, happiness or blessing, is a must in Spring Festival decorations. It can be found on a poster, on a red envelope, as a paper-cutting work, on a Chinese knot, and in many other New Year decorations for the festival. 

An interesting fact is that the character Fu is usually displayed upside-down. That's because in Chinese, the words for "upside-down" and "to arrive" sound similar. Therefore, placing the character of Fu upside-down on a door indicates "Good luck arrives".

New Year couplets

New Year couplets are an essential part of Spring Festival decorations. New Year couplets are written in black ink on two vertical strips of red paper which are then stuck on each side of a door. The first (or upper) line is on the right side while the second (lower) line is on the left. A third horizontal piece is pasted on the door frame.

The New Year couplets are meant to offer a happy and hopeful message and sincere wish for a better New Year.

Worship Ceremony

Ancestral worship and God worship is an important part of this festival.

The Worship to Heaven at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a highlight during the Chinese New Year Festival. The aim of it is to reproduce the quality of the ceremonies that took place in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1912 A.D.). From costumes to props, from music to ceremonial utensilsas well as the etiquette that came with it, large efforts are made in order to reproduce that imperial feeling.

Red Envelope

The Red Envelopes or the Red Packet are monetary gifts (lucky money packed in a red envelope) presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings or on holidays such as the Lunar New Year. They symbolize good luck and are supposed to ward off evil spirits. They are also named Ya Sui Qian, meaning "money to guard against evil and bless with happiness".

Traditionally the lucky money is an even number (especially a number with auspicious meanings). For example, 88 is a lucky number as the pronounciation of "eight" is similar to the words for "getting rich".

Spring Festival Activities in Beijing:

Temple Fairs

Temple Fairs are one of the most important celebration activities during the Spring Festival in Beijing. This traditional cultural event integrates religious worship and entertainment and features almost all kinds of Chinese folk art. Temple Fairs in Beijing have a long history and the origin can be traced back to the Liao Dynasty (907-1125). The fairs are held at various ancient temples regularly or during festivals, so they are called "temple fairs". 

For foreigners, visiting a temple fair is definitely a good cultural experience. You may enjoy the reenactment of the ceremony of worship to Earth and Heaven, folk performances like dragon and lion dances, the demonstration of traditional arts and crafts and fun games which are all on offer. You can also taste numerous Beijing snacks, court dishes and delicacies. 

Ditan Temple Fair

Ditan Temple Fair is one of the most popular and long-standing fairs in Beijing. About one million people visit it each year during the Spring Festival. Besides the ceremonies, there are a wide range of folk performances and activities, such as puppet shows, traditional art exhibitions, dragon and lion dances and acrobatic shows.

Location: Ditan (Temple of the Earth) Park, East Avenue, Anding Gate, Dongcheng District.

Longtan Temple Fair

Longtan Temple Fair is also one of the most popular ones of its kind in Beijing. The activities here are very similar to those found in Ditan Temple Fair. Various interactive games and competitions such as table tennis, diabolo (Chinese Yoyo) spinning and arm wrestling are great fun to try. Plenty of folk performances and local snacks are also found at the fair. 

Location: Longtan Park, 8 Longtan Rd. Chongwen District.

Dongyue Temple Fair

Dongyue Temple Fair had started as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368). The culture of "Fu" has been the essence of this fair since it began. Visitors can pray for good fortune at the altar, walk on the "Fu" road, or hang a "Fu" card to hope for "Fu" in the coming year. Colourful folk performances, art displays and snacks are also available.

Location: Dongyue Temple, 141 Chaowai Avenue, Chaoyang District.

Future Spring Festivals:

The Spring Festival in 2016 falls on Feb 8, 2016.

                       2017 falls on Jan 28, 2017.

                       2018 falls on Feb 16, 2018.

                       2019 falls on Feb 5, 2019.

                       2020 falls on Jan 25, 2020.